Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal’s View: Business Icons awards provide opportunity to honor past leaders


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The present may have persistent challenges, but Spokane has a sparkling future, thanks in large part to efforts of business and civic leaders who endeavored to make the Inland Northwest what it is today.

It’s in that spirit that the Journal calls on its readers to nominate business legends for its annual Business Icons INW awards.

Going into its fourth year, the Icons awards recognize past leaders who have had a profound impact on a facet—or multiple facets—of the Spokane community. Past honorees include developers like John Stone, whose projects  have changed the region’s landscape; entrepreneurs like Telect’s Bill and Judy Williams, who built companies and provided jobs for thousands of people in the Inland Northwest; civic leaders like Greater Spokane Incorporated’s former CEO Rich Hadley, who shaped the business community’s economic development strategy; and executives like former Washington Water Power CEO Paul Redmond, whose vision extended well beyond the company’s corporate headquarters.

For those who aren’t familiar with the awards, nominees must be 70 years old or older and must be retired or largely uninvolved in day-to-day business or organizational operations. They should have spent a significant amount of their careers in the Inland Northwest, and because the awards aren’t given posthumously, recipients must be living.

The Icons awards were created with the notion that past leaders should be honored and celebrated for their longstanding contributions. Newspapers focus, for good reason, on telling readers what is happening and what to expect. But a program such as this gives us an opportunity to provide insight into how we arrived at where we are today.

A recent Seattle Times article referred to Spokane as an “It” city, a place that has become a popular destination for those looking to relocate. The “It” city moniker was used in context of the housing market and the challenges therein, with people moving from higher-priced metros to attractive smaller markets in which housing is more attainable for them, but that puts pressure on the smaller market.

Even so, the notion that a West Side news source would refer to Spokane as a popular place to be would have been hard to imagine a decade or two ago, even for those of us who have been consistently bullish on the Inland Northwest.

That reputation didn’t happen by accident. It was earned by those who had the vision to build a burgeoning University District, create an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and champion investment in public facilities that make Spokane an attractive destination to live, work, and play. 

The Icons awards will culminate with an event in early May at which the honorees will be celebrated. For the first time in three years—and only the second time ever—our hope is to host this celebration in person.

Before that, though, the Journal needs its readers’ help. Let us know who should be recognized, through a form on our website or by contacting the newsroom. In the past, those nominations have been so compelling, they’ve made selecting honorees a difficult process, but a rewarding one at that.

Help us honor those upon whose shoulders we all stand.

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